FEATURE | Misfortune continues to stalk India’s aircraft carrier

Photo: Indian Navy
Photo: Indian Navy – Vikramaditya

The Indian Navy’s (IN) aircraft carrier Vikramaditya suffered an engine room fire while approaching the naval base at Katamba. The ship’s damage control officer lost his life while leading the successful effort to extinguish the fire.

This was but the latest mishap to befall the carrier, which was formerly the Soviet Navy’s Admiral Gorshkov. The ship’s refit and upgrade, carried out in Russia from 2004 to 2013, was subject to big delays, as well as massive cost overruns, allegations of corruption, and a number of deaths and injuries among personnel working on the ship. Two crewmembers, furthermore, died in 2016, when fumes escaped from an on-board sewage plant.

It is currently unclear how badly Vikramaditya was damaged by the fire. Prolonged repair work to the MIG-29K fighter bomber-equipped carrier would temporarily affect the regional balance of naval power.

Meanwhile, the 40,000-tonne, indigenously-built aircraft carrier Vikrant continues to experience delays in construction.

New Delhi, nevertheless, is pressing ahead with its plans to develop a three-aircraft carrier battle group navy. It was recently confirmed, by a spokesperson for UK-based BAE Systems, that negotiations are underway between this company, and the IN, for the possible construction, in India, of a variant the UK Royal Navy’s 65,000-tonne Queen Elizabeth-class carrier, to be named Vishal.

Trevor Hollingsbee

Maritime security expert and columnist, Trevor Hollingsbee was a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy, Senior Superintendent with the Hong Kong Marine Police, Assistant Secretary for Security in the British Hong Kong Government Security Branch, and Intelligence Analyst in the UK Ministry of Defence. As an independent defence and security analyst he has had some 1,500 articles on maritime security, and geopolitical topics, published in a range of international journals and newspapers. He is an Associate Fellow of the Nautical Institute, and a past Vice-Chairman of the Institute’s Hong Kong branch.